Wanted: Disabled Black Lesbian?

Over the last few days we’ve had a number of people bleating about the lack of Salfordians getting jobs at the BBC’s new ‘Manchester’ base…..in Salford.  The MEN, The Guardian, Hazel Blears MP (spot a trend?) have all thrown their moans in, after only 24 successful applicants out of over 3,000 applicants came from Salford, and only around a third of the non-internal hires came from Greater Manchester.

Last year, we saw Lord Davies of Abersoch preach to businesses about the lack of women around the boardroom table and signing up a number of politically malleable Head-Hunting firms to a charter to opening discriminate to get more women included in short-lists – despite a wealth of data to highlight that the lack of female representation at the higher grades was down to supply, not prejudice.

Put this against a backdrop of comments from Entrepreneurs and business leaders who consistently cite one of the biggest hindrances to [their] business growth is finding, attracting and engaging the right/best talent.

Spot the issue yet?

Businesses crave and critically need the best talent. The right Head-Hunter will go and find the best talent. Perfect solution…..until the bed-wetters arrive with their rule books, charters, demographic breakdowns, political agendas, diversity policies and enormous range of criteria for you to avoid any potential, vague of-chance of perceived discrimination and/or inequality…..and countering it by openly discriminating.

But it’s ok because this Discrimination is Positive Discrimination (usually as decreed by the same bed-wetters that hold the rule books, and political agendas). The trouble is, it is seldom genuinely positive.

Businesses need the best people to drive their business forward. The BBC in Manchester Salford needs the best people to ensure that the highly contentious move to Manchester Salford is an overwhelming success not only for the BBC and its customers, but also for Salford, Manchester and Greater Manchester.

Appeasing the naysayers, by giving the locals jobs en masse over those better qualified will not help achieve that.

Likewise, telling me that the shortlist I have presented to my client is not good enough because it doesn’t contain sufficient diversity is lunacy – yet thanks to Lord Davies et al., this is the way it is going.

We have already had Europe stamp their feet where they are largely unwelcome, deciding that such wildly discriminatory phrases such as ‘dynamic’, ‘hungry’, ‘fast-paced’, ‘energetic’ etc might not be the best way to attract Mr/Ms Uninspiring/Unmotivated/Underachieving and thus should be outlawed. If they had their way, “Person seeks Accountant” might be as specific as you are allowed to be, publically.

No-one I know would argue against the need to ensure fairness and eradicate discrimination from recruitment and business as a whole, but doing so through further unfairness and further discrimination is not the way to do it.

The only time I have been asked to openly discriminate for any mandate has been to increase the number of a deemed under-populated demograph – including a proudly all-female board that wanted it to stay that way (but ended up hiring a male Finance Director!) Can you imagine if a ‘proudly all-male board’ led business advertised itself as such? And openly searched for a male colleague?

Lord Davies’ well-qualified intervention has increased the number of female directors in the country’s largest companies from 12.5% to almost 15%. Doubtless a positive move in the eyes of the Lord [Davies], but how many better qualified individuals have been discriminated against to ensure a short-list contains its requisite make-up?

The Head-Hunters I have spoken to quietly fly-in-the-face of their employer’s corporate line and admit that they have disregarded better candidates to ensure they hit this politically motivated, arbitrary set level of 25% of shortlists being female.

What then happens when a different Lord decides that a further 25% should come from a different under-represented demographic background? And then a third thinks of a further under represented group? Or geographic location? Or specified hair-colour? Or regional accent?

Imagine delivering the best candidate to your client when over 75% of a 5 person short-list *has* to be from these pre-ordained, irrelevant backgrounds. Are you really delivering the best? Or merely the best within an every lengthening set of constraints? And do you want your business, and it’s performance constrained?

Political correctness or not, I deliver the best shortlist, and the best candidates to my clients. I openly disregard the voluntary charter to ensure X% of shortlists contain arbitrary levels of certain people. I deliver the best.

…..yet ironically, over the past 3 years, more than Lord Davies’ magical 25% of the shortlists I have presented have been female. Because each time, they have been amongst the best candidates for the job.

7 Comments on “Wanted: Disabled Black Lesbian?”

  1. Gary, it is not that simple. Recruit the best of the job yes, we always do at Kids Allowed, but to attract men into childcare, we had to make a concerted effort to attract them. (For example the PR campaign, “Jennie needs a man!) We also need to acknowledge racism and sexism in recruitment absolutely does exist, as does postcode snobbery. I directly know of someone who granted “used to” work in HR that disregarded anyone living in Wythenshawe and this was a listed company. If someone in that company was properly looking into the diversity of their recruitment, maybe they would have spotted a problem and something could have been done about it. I hear the conversations about not recruiting senior women of childbearing age because “they will be off on maternity leave as soon as we give them the job”. I hear how people can talk in the safety of their “own kind”, they often openly discuss views they would not be as open discussing in front of as you put it there “black, lesbian” colleagues. Speaking as a hard arse (not bet wetting) Salfordian, there are many talented people that should have got those jobs at Mediacity, (I know of one personally that should have ticked all the boxes but couldn’t even get shortlisted past the computer screening) We need to try harder, look harder and do better to reflect diversity. Mediacity as an example, need to take a long hard look at it recruitment process and see what went wrong…something did…

    • Thanks Jenny – and I appreciate it isn’t that simple. KA have done very well in attracting men (and at obviously recruiting the right people – your staff retention is well above average), but if you felt/knew that your customers were less comfortable with male “nursery nurses”, but guidelines/statute said you must have a 25% male workforce – would you still willingly do it? And would you deem those parents as discriminating?

      On the rest of your comment – discrimination is very wrong, but decisions that can appear to be discriminatory need to be analysed and have the question posed,”why?“. The “They will be off on Mat leave” is pure discrimination (albeit with mitigating circumstances on rare occasions – and wrong doing on both sides in others!), but to recruit along previous proven success routes can be deemed commercial and common sense – but would be deemed discriminatory by others (witness businesses recruiting using set behavioural profile maps in certain roles and discarding those that fall outside).

      If there were genuinely people that got turned down for roles at the BBC, and they can see which external candidate they should have been superior to, then they need to pursue it. Most I have heard from however either hadn’t taken the pre-screening seriously or had tried to be too clever with their applications.

      I do think the BBC process was deeply flawed. The notion of just registering your details with them, rather than applying for specific jobs/functions etc is a nonsense and belittles the attraction of any business’s most important resource – its people. Alas, an HR led process that tried to be too-clever and automating a vitally human skill is destined to be flawed.

      The acid test with the BBC will be in 3-4 years time to see how the corporation/workforce is doing, what their staff retention has been like and understanding the geographic breakdown of both subsequent recruits, and those who thrive/survive. BUT….those complaining that the process was wrong purely because only a third of hires came from the wider local area, and that locals should have been given preference purely on that basis is at least equally flawed. In my opinion.

      Thanks again for your comments. See you soon.

  2. Great blog Gary, not seen it before. The world is going PC crazy and insistent on sticks rather than carrots. I have been openly passed over twice in Siemens due to positive discrimination. Both times they told me, and gave me the corresponding pay-rise as compensation. Both times the person left within 6 months as they were not up to the job.

  3. Controversial title but a relevant subject. Preventing discrimination is a very valid pursuit, but to do so through discrimination is even worse. If I ever thought I had gotten a job over a better qualified candidate just because I was female, gay or non-caucasion I would be horrified. Let me get on in life because of who I am and what I am, not because of how I was born. Very well written.

  4. Brave to tackle this Gary, but a very relevant subject matter. Rules governing such matter are wrong and are atypically designed from people who reside outside the demograph or minority they are seeking to protect. The more we water down Darwin, the weaker the species becomes.

  5. Dug this out after our conversation yesterday. Love your writing style on this, and especially your more recent blogs. Issues such as these are brought about by civil servants or action groups that typically have no footing in the real world. Diversity and equality if important in every part of life, but the second that diversity becomes forced and enforced, it loses it’s relevance and work against those who it seeks to protect. Like letting the fat kid at school win a race so he didn’t feel left out. As soon as he knows the others slowed down so he could win, he will be infinitely more upset and affected than if he didn’t win in the first place. The world ends up living a lie. Alas, in the modern world, we spend more time making sure we don’t offend people (who don’t get offended) and more time including people (that don’t want including) than just getting on with life, our lives. My Son’s university spend more time promoting the fact that it has such a wide, provable diversity structure AND sells that as its prime USP, not it’s academic achievement. How bizarre. Luckily the Rugby team is still one of the best and not affected by fat kids who are given the chance to take part 😉

  6. Good Morning. I picked up your article from your twitter. I agree with its sentiments and what you write. I’ve have grown up in the UK, as have my parents after my grandparents moved to the UK. They suffered some resistance and even some hatred 2 generations ago, but they accepted it. They told us it would have been the same the other way around.

    We now get equally offended by people unwelcomely fighting our corner, solely based on their perception of what we would like in life. The truth is, I want what everyone wants. I certainly don’t want people to belittle me by standing up for me and making decisions of what the world can do make me happier. Last year, I applied for a job within a large authority. I was told my application was being fast forwarded due to the necessity to increase applications from minority groups? I was more offended by such actions than if they told me I was being rejected because my would be boss would be a racist bigot. Don’t give me a handicap.

    Three years ago my father was contacted my our local council to discuss the councils approach to christmas celebrations and sought his, and several others input on what visual images and wording could be used over the Seasonal Winter Holiday to ensure we were included. My father suggested father Christmas, Reindeer, Baby Jesus in a crib, several christmas trees and lots of snow. He also suggested use of the phrase Merry Christmas was repeated numerous times. He then pointed out that since his grandparents have been in the UK, we have celebrated Christmas along with all of our friends, as is a Christmas tradition for most of the Britons. Just because we do not hold it has a purely reglious event, does not make us in need of accommodation, it makes us normal. Good or bad, most people do not see christmas as a purely religious event in this country. The insulting aspect of my father’s questioners over this christmas issue, was that every one of them was white caucasian telling us what we should want and telling us what should be correct and incorrect. Like as is we cannot fight our own corners.

    Give me a fair fight and I will fight hard. If I lose, it is because I was not goos enough. If I win, it is because I was the best.

    Incidentally Mr Chaplin. I have just applied for your Sales Director with Equity role. I look forward to a fair fight, not the token minority seat on your shortlist.

    Thank you.



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